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President Donald Trump gave a speech at a student activist conference in front of an altered presidential seal.
USA TODAY

The graphic artist who created a fake presidential seal that mocked President Donald Trump went from anonymity to anti-Trump folk hero this week after the president stood before the seal during a gathering of conservative teens on Tuesday.

Turning Point USA, the organization that hosted Trump at its Teen Action Summit in Washington, say “a last-minute A/V mistake” caused the doctored seal to flank a gleaming Trump while he was onstage at the Washington Marriott Marquis.

But the man who created it, Charles Leazott, according to multiple media reports, explains it this way.

“There are only two options here,” Leazott told Forbes. “This really was an accident and their incompetence knows no bounds (or) someone did this on purpose and they’re lying to cover that fact up.”

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The Washington Post reported that Leazott, 46, is a former Republican from Richmond, Virginia, who twice voted for George W. Bush.

The Post first reported on the altered seal the day after Trump’s onstage appearance. As Trump walked onstage to a cheering audience on Tuesday, two presidential seals flashed on screen. The seal directly behind Trump was the authentic presidential seal. One of the seals, however, was not like the others.

Upon closer examination, the seal on Trump’s right includes a double-headed eagle, unlike the single head of the traditional presidential seal, and seems to resemble the Russian coat of arms. The seal has a complex history, notes the Victoria and Albert Museum, but one of the more common interpretations is that the two heads represent east and west, “an allegory sometimes for unity, and sometimes for absolute monarchy.” It could be a reference to Trump’s sometimes-controversial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

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Leazott told Forbes he made the fake seal in 2016 amid Trump’s run-up to the presidency as a way to amuse friends and family. He even started an online store where people could buy posters and T-shirts of the image.

However, widespread enthusiasm for the seal didn’t appear to take off until Thursday, after the seal’s appearance made news. That’s when, according to the Washington Post, Leazott noticed news coverage of the seal while drinking morning coffee.

“It’s been chaos,” he told the Post. “This is not what I expected when I woke up today.”

In preceding years, reports Forbes, Leazott had let his website fall by the wayside. “Cut to today,” he told the magazine, “and I put the site back up.”

The Post reported Leazott sold out of shirts Thursday afternoon.

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While people celebrated Leazott online (“Charles Leazott is my hero!”) there was fallout at Turning Point USA, which told CNN an audiovisual aide was fired over the mishap. The organization also apologized to the president, claiming “zero malicious intent.”

Contributing: Nicholas Wu